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Monday, December 3, 2018

Ross Andru's Amazing Spider-Man Artist Edition - a Review

Ross Andru's Amazing Spider-Man Artist Edition
IDW Publishing, March 2018

Now I love me a good Artist Edition, and today's fare certainly falls into that category. I pre-ordered this from the fine folks at Tales of Wonder, and received their always-expertly packaged box some months later. I've had this for quite some time, but only recently reserved a day (and the kitchen counter) to read from it. If you humored my live-tweet of my reading via the @bronzeagebabies Twitter feed, I thank you. Today, you are the lucky recipient of more of my photos as well as some thoughts on the book and on Andru's work.

First, the tale of the tape from the good people at the Artist Edition Index:

Ross Andru’s The Amazing Spider-Man Artist’s Edition
Includes Amazing Spider-Man 125-127, 153, 165 and 167, plus a special gallery section. Review.
  • Publication Date: March 28, 2018 (solicited for January 2018)
  • Publisher Series Number: 57
  • ISBN: 978-1-68405-286-8
  • 12″ x 17″
  • 144 pages
  • $125 USD
  • Editor: Scott Dunbier
  • Production: Scott Dunbier
  • Design: Randall Dahlk
  • Initial Reported Sales: 353

This is the twelfth Artist Edition I've purchased; unfortunately, these books are so large that I had to sell two to make room for others. First-World problems, I know... For those who are not familiar with Artist Editions (or their counterparts from other companies, i.e. Gallery Editions from Fantagraphics, et al.), these are collections of original art. When possible, complete issues are included, and the art is scanned in color - that means that all white-out, margin notes, blue-line pencil, paste-ups, etc. are visible in high definition... these books are the next best thing to owning the actual pages.

Ross Andru was my entry point to Amazing Spider-Man, c. issue #138. I think for many long-time fans, "you never forget your first". So while Andru may not be my favorite artist on the Wall-Crawler, I have a soft spot for his work. I hope you find, through the pages and panels I've presented, that Andru's run is pleasing to your eye as well.

I am an enthusiast of the production process. I come from a family of printers, so seeing the blue line pencil under the inks, the stats, the yellowed paste-ups, and the white-out is wonderful. In that vein, the page below is what I'd consider a prime exhibit of the purpose of the Artist Edition:

Amazing Spider-Man #180, by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito
Not only is this a great composition by Andru, the fact that all the word balloons are paste-ups is a curiosity. Of the 144 pages in the Artist Edition, this is the only one like this. You can find stats/paste-ups here and there, but never an entire page. It just makes me wonder a) what it looked like before, and b) was it the entire plot that was changed, or just wording here and there?

When many fans think of Ross Andru's tenure on Amazing Spider-Man, it's his attention to the details of New York City that come to mind. I've only been to NYC once, and then only to Manhattan on a drive-through and to a Yankees game in the Bronx. So for this Midwestern boy, Ross Andru provided me a window to another world.



The splash pages included in the AE are also an Andru tour de force. It's nice to see the influence of the various inkers on Andru's pencils, too. The varied camera angles are cool as well.



 And speaking of inkers, here's a closer look at some of the embellishers featured in the book. Left to right, top to bottom you'll see John Romita, Sr., Jim Mooney, Mooney again, Frank Giacoia, and Mike Esposito.


Gerry Conway and Len Wein were the scripters on the issues that were chosen for the book. Even with only these six issues as a sample, the rough and sometimes rocky relationship between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson is on full display. This also serves as a time capsule for me, as I watched these events play out monthly after my trips to the corner drug store.


Early in the AE, in Amazing Spider-Man #s 126-127, Spider-Man is commissioned to build the Spider-Mobile. The panels featuring Spidey and the Human Torch working were fun - always some nice banter when those two are together. And darned if the guys pitching to Spidey don't resemble Funky Flashman and Houseroy!

The IDW folks did a great job - this is one of only two pages in the book not shot from original art.

The focus of an Artist Edition is not only the production process, as I mentioned above. I think that with the color stripped away, my concentration often goes to page layouts and panel composition. Ross Andru was a master of motion, specifically action. But if you notice in the final panel in this section, he was also pretty darn good at the conveyance of emotion.

Lastly, just by chance the issues chosen for this wonderful exhibition happened to include three Christmas pages. Since we're fully in the thick of the holiday season, here are those panels -- I bet they jog a memory for many of you!

Thanks for humoring me with this tour of a great book - one I'm very happy to have purchased and set alongside similar collections featuring the work of Jack Kirby, John Romita, Gil Kane, and John Buscema. Drop a comment below if you're so inclined, and stop back by this space on Thursday for another look at some great Bronze Age comic book art.


  1. Great look at a fine book, Doug! Thanks for sharing it.

    I share your appreciation of the benefits of original artwork. As you noted, stripping away the color allows one to focus on tne linework, composition and dark/light interplay. Also, one downside to many Bronze age comics was the printing quality. Whether due to the paper or the process, too often the artwork would seem muddy or blurred (but enjoyable nonetheless). Seeing the original pages really highlights the sharp draftsmanship of the artists involved.

    And it certainly does so in this instance. Like you, Ross Andru was the artist on ASM when I began collecting, so his work (and those particular stories) still have an added nostalgic appeal. My favorite Spidey artist, of course, being Jazzy Johnny Romita, seeing those two artists paired up was a special treat. Andru's exciting, dramatic, detailed style topped off with Romita's flawless refinement. Wonderful...

    Not to sidetrack your topic, but speaking of original art, I had the pleasure of discussing that subject yesterday at the Louisville Supercon with several people, including Al Milgrom. In that case, the one page of original artwork I still possess is one by Al from his Gaurdians of the Galaxy run in the mid 70's. Knowing he'd be at the show, I took a photo of the framed page and showed him at his table. He got a kick out of that, and noted how his signature has changed over the years.

    And back to your topic- thanks again for sharing all those excellent images. Great book indeed!

    1. Thanks, Redartz!

      I'm curious - who else did you meet/talk to at the Louisville con? Sadly, there are fewer and fewer Bronze Agers who attend those shows. Really cool that you showed him the photo of your original page and that he got a kick out of it.

      As to Ross Andru, at times his faces could seem a bit harsh (I can think of a few specific examples of Pete or MJ looking somewhat odd), but he never ceased to bring the action, and as I said above, his splash pages and backgrounds were just wonderful.


    2. Doug- this show was pretty good for an aging Bronze ager like me. Met Milgrom, Jim Shooter, Mike Grell, Bob Hall, Mike DeCarlo, Bob McCloud and Jose Delbo. Lots of fun; had a nice talks with Shooter, Milgrom and Grell. Will have some more about this soon on a BitBA Tuesday...

      And you're right about Andru's faces. They were at times a bit harsh or angular. Romita's (and, from your examples above, Mooney's ) inks effectively softened that...

    3. Man, what a great list of people to have met. I'm particularly interested in what Shooter had to say - I've been curious about what prompted him to rather abruptly quit blogging after that brief (2 or so years?) spurt of activity about 6-7 years ago.

  2. I always liked Andru's work on Spidey--I thought it was better than his DC stuff, generally. You're right about those splash page angles; Andru was great at showing the city from Spidey's perspective. And that shot of St. Patrick's ... wow, he coulda been an architect!

  3. First, I have to say I'm with you guys on Andru: he was the regular Spidey artist when I started reading comics, so I very much associate his work with the character. And I recently read through the entirety of Len Wein's run on ASM (thanks - you guessed it - to the Panini digests), which is chock full of Andru's fine artwork - so several the pages you posted here looked more than just a little familiar.
    Thanks for posting the pages, Doug. However, and echoing something I may have said when you had a similar post back at the BAB, I don't think I'd ever throw down the money for one of these artist editions. Yeah, the material is interesting to examine, but not so much that I need to have an entire book full of it (and a big, expensive one at that).

    1. Edo -

      I have this fantasy that some day we'll all live close enough that, with our varied interests, we can just borrow books from each other. Wouldn't that be fun?


    2. Yes. Yes, it would...

  4. Wow. That is really awesome. I did not appreciate Ross Andru until much later in life. Like Sal Buscema he just did great work while keeping characters on point. I really enjoy the amount of detail he packs into the backgrounds. And as you noted his splash pages for Spidey really were great.

    One question about the book - does it only print the art on one side of the page (like the original)? The reason I ask is that I am curious if there are any markings, doodles, notes or sketches on the flip side.

    I really like the blue lines, stats, and fixes. It shows how much work went into a single page.

    I hope you share more of these over time.

    1. Martinex -

      In each of the Artist Editions I own the pages are printed back-to-back. I really don't know if that's an issue in regard to the back-of-the-page sketches you mention, unless we're talking about John Buscema. He was well known to do that. I have no idea if other artists did it as well. I'd think there would be some of that... thumbnail layouts, etc. Buscema basically used anything and everything as scratch paper. So those doodles, sketches, and layouts are definitely lost in these books, which is a pity.

      You can count on more Artist Editions here!


  5. You've been telling me how great these artists editions are for years, and man, those ASM pages are just beautiful! They bring back a flood of memories. Jazzy Johnny Romita will always be my Spidey artist, but Andru came on the book shortly after I started reading, and I appreciate his run,even if he isn't my number one pick. What a great time period for the title. And I love seeing the original pages -all of the little details, the paste-ups -it's like you're in on the magic! Thanks Doug! I think I need to see if I can still get the Starlin one.

  6. Hi, partner!

    If someone were to drop $100 in my coffers, I'd have a hard time deciding between the Starlin book you mention or the John Byrne's X-Men Artist Edition. But then there's the Frank Miller DD Artifact Edition. And the David Mazzuchelli DD Artist Edition...



  7. I'm late to the party, lol, but I really enjoyed this Doug. I know others have mixed feelings about Andru's art but I never did. Perhaps b/c I started reading at ASM #100 with Kane, then Romita started drawing it again, and then back to Kane, and then to Andru... I've always been one who had mixed feelings about Kane's work so I welcomed Andru's art.

    Regardless, a most enjoyable post. Thanks!

  8. As an aside, since I just discovered this blog, is that if you love black and white Bronze Age art, a good way to hunt for the material is through the Australian comics reprints. A partial index is at which will list many titles indicated by black and white. I have been collecting this stuff for years. Quite enjoyable.


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